Buncombe County, NC is the root of the commonly used word, bunk. It was named after the county of congressman Felix Walker which alludes to in an inane speech by Mr. Walker before a tired and weary House committee that was waiting to vote on the question of the admission of Missouri as either a free or slave state. He was eventually shouted down and never got to complete his speech.
That Missouri question was a pivotal moment in American history and politics- a point which, in fact, Americans have not yet put away and which keeps seeping up to spoil our American psyche. This Missouri slavery issue prompted Jefferson to write:
“…but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed indeed for the moment, but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence, a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.”
will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.
And so it has and today, some 190 years later, that ‘irritation’ of which Jefferson spoke is division-making, especially in politics. Today’s ‘red states, blue states’ map reflects very closely the slave states-free states map of 1820.
Here’s some rhetoric from that historic congressional debate which spilled over onto the “bleeding Kansas” debate some years later. David Atchison, a Missouri senator, proclaimed the Northerners to be “negro thieves” and “abolitionist tyrants.” He encouraged Missourians to defend their institution “with the bayonet and with blood” and, if necessary, “to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the district.”
The abolitionist senator Charles Sumner delivered a fiery speech called “The Crime Against Kansas,” in which he accused proslavery senators, particularly Atchison and Andrew Butler of South Carolina, of [cavorting with the] “harlot, Slavery.” In retaliation, Butler’s nephew, Congressman Preston Brooks, attacked Sumner at his Senate desk and beat him senseless with a cane.
Although these physical acts of violence do not occur any longer in the halls of Congress, the words and their subtleties do. ‘States rights’ was the cleaned-up version of ‘harlot’ and ‘bayonet with blood.’ Southerners and their representatives in Congress hold states rights a sacred platform of worship. Northerners for the most part believe that Federal law best serves this nation.
Thus, today’s bunk.
Were I born 250 years earlier, I would have been an ‘abolitionist tyrant’ for sure because that is in my psyche, my personhood. I may have even joined John Brown on one of his adventures. I clearly would have worked for the Underground railroad in some capacity for my sense of justice runs deep. Or most probably, I would have worked in some abolitionist newspaper, perhaps The Philanthropist.
That is why I chose ‘Man with the Muckrake’ as the title of my blog- ferreting out the truth amid the muck, the bunk, the lies and spin. The Debunk Department, so to speak. I am especially furious with Jesus-pimping fundamentalists as well as charlatans who attempt to cover and couch their racial bigotry. Neither sets well with me and my attack-dog instincts are heightened.
The Department of Debunk is now open for discussion on this 12th day of July, 2010.